PHOENIX -- Last season no one really knew what to expect of A's rookies Tommy Milone or Jarrod Parker. They weren't sure what Bartolo Colon had left in the tank. They certainly didn't expect much of Brett Anderson as he recovered from the dreaded "Tommy John" surgery.
A.J. Griffin? Dan Straily? Even Bob Melvin had no idea who those guys were.
Yet, here they stand in Phoenix, Arizona representing a pitching staff that is the envy of most Major League clubs. Simply put, the A's are armed to the teeth.
"They’re good, so it’s going to be nice being their catcher," John Jaso said.
Jaso hasn't caught any of them yet, but Melvin said he would get a steady helping behind the dish as soon as possible.
"I think he's more excited than anybody," Parker said of Jaso with a smile.
Jaso has reason to be enthused. The A's finished 94-68 last season en route to winning the American League West, largely because of their pitching rotation. The starting pitchers had a 3.80 ERA and by season's end, all five pitchers in the rotation were rookies. Three of those rookies -- Parker, Milone, and Griffin -- started postseason games last year. That valuable experience should go a long way as they embark on their 2013 campaigns.
"I don't think anyone wanted it to end really," Griffin said of the A's 2012 late-season surge. "I could have kept playing baseball like that for the rest of my life."
Expected to be anchored by a fully healthy Anderson, the A's appear poised to improve even after losing Brandon McCarthy to free agency. Instead of focusing on rehab this offseason, Anderson was thrilled to be able to focus on getting ready to pitch. After logging his first postseason start in 2012, Anderson might be called upon for another career first -- to pitch on opening day this season.
"That's not up to me," Anderson said. "I'm just happy to be healthy wherever they put me in, they put me in. I'm just going to try to go out there and do my job, but if that's the case that would be great too."
The A's starting pitchers feed off of each other. They work hard together in camp, know and support each other off the field, and after each quality start, the next guy wants to keep the momentum going. The familiarity with one another and added experience could go a long way this year.
"It makes it a lot easier being here for a year now," Milone said. "You know a lot of people, familiar faces. You come in and you're not trying to meet everybody and learn new names and stuff like that."
Milone and Parker logged a combined 371 innings for the A's last season. They each finished the season with 13 wins, tying each other for an Oakland rookie record. Parker, who underwent "Tommy John" surgery in 2009, has spent the offseason focusing on finding ways to handle another hefty workload. He started by tweaking his diet. He now has special meals delivered to his house daily so he can follow a strict nutrition plan.
"It's been a big difference," Parker said. "I can tell energy level weight-wise has been up, and where I want it to be. Obviously it's going to drop a little bit coming into spring and the long season, but being able to put as much on as you can in the offseason is what I've always tried to do. It's a long year, try to build endurance and be as ready as I can."
Griffin and Straily both sold shoes last offseason. This year they are both happy to focus specifically on baseball as they look to follow up strong 2012 campaigns that saw them earn the organization's co-Minor League pitcher of the year honors.
Straily married his wife Amanda this offseason. Milone proposed to his new fiance Tina. Things really are looking up for A's pitchers -- especially if their ERAs stay down.
Insider's Take: Projected A's starting rotation:
Brett Anderson, LHP
Jarrod Parker, RHP
Tommy Milone, LHP
A.J. Griffin, RHP
Dan Straily, RHP / Bartolo Colon, RHP (Five games left on suspension)